Study Tips for Adult Learners


katiew via Compfight

In my experience as an adult educator, I have found that adult learners returning to formal study for the first time, have often had negative learning experiences at school, and as a result of this, they lack confidence when it comes to studying and learning.  These barriers to learning need to be addressed.  Being an adult learner is different to learning at school:

  • As an adult learner you bring with you many life experiences, and these experiences will be assist you in your studies.
  • You will probably be more motivated than you were at school – most adult learners have a reason for learning, ie goals.
  • You will find that you have many more demands on your time, therefore planning and time management skills are critical to your success.
  • You are responsible for your own learning.

Top Six Study Tips

1. Ask for help

Don’t try to be superman – let your family and friends help you!   Don’t be too proud to accept help if it is offered, or to ask for help if you need it.

2.  Time management

Most adult learners have very busy lives as they juggle work, family and other commitments with the demands of studying.  It is critical that you have a timetable for studying.  Get a diary and schedule in your classes. Block out time for regular study and record the due date of your assignments.  Do not procrastinate – make your learning a priority!

3.  You are responsible for your learning

Learning is a two-way process.  Your teachers will impart their knowledge, but you need to make sure that you learn it.  You are responsible for your learning, and for ensuring that you understand and process the new information.

4.  Be an Active Listener

Being an active listener does not mean sitting quietly, it means to be focussed on listening, taking relevant notes, and asking questions if you need clarification.  A Samoan lady that I was teaching once relayed the following story:

Questions Answered...

Michael Sauers via Compfight

She was attending university as a mature adult student for the first time.   During lectures she felt intimated by the younger palagi (Samoan name for European people).  She didn’t ask questions because she was embarrassed by her pigeon English, and didn’t want to appear “stupid”.  She failed her first paper.  She described how she made the decision that she would never again allow her insecurities to cause her to fail.  She vowed and declared that from that point on, she would ask questions and she would keep on asking questions.  She didn’t care if she sounded stupid, or if she spoke using bad English. She kept on asking questions until she completely understood.  As a result, she gained respect from the other students, and made friends.  But most importantly, she passed her exams.  Today, she is very confident, speaks good English and is still learning.  

Just imagine how different her life would be today, if she hadn’t faced her fears and had given up on her goals.

5.  Take notes, or create mind maps

During your class, or lecture, make sure that you take written notes on important topics.  You won’t remember everything that is discussed in class, so it is important that you record the information that you need.

An alternative to writing notes, is creating mind maps.    A mind map is a visual representation, and is a good alternative to writing pages of notes.  Visual learners often find that mind maps make information more memorable, and therefore easier to recall, that written notes.

Take a look at the video below on how to create mind maps, and check out this article on Mind Maps.  (Note, I have no affiliation to this article and video).

6.  Don’t Let Your Fears Wreck Your Opportunities

In order to learn we must take risks and try new things.  When we try new things we often make mistakes, and we learn from our mistakes.  If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning. It is okay to mistakes!


When you first start a course of learning it can seem quite daunting and the end result may seem a long way away.  As you progress, you will become familiar with the learning programme and comfortable with your teacher and other students.  It is important to have a positive attitude and keep your end goal in sight.  Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to make mistakes.

It will be worth it in the end!

Thanks for reading this post, and please let me know if it has been helpful to you.  Have you any tips that you can share with others?  Do you have any questions that I can help with?  I love getting feedback, so please leave a comment.

Other posts that may be of interest:

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Just Do It!

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  1. #1 by Graham Scott on June 24, 2012 - 8:53 am

    Great article. You have covered a good range of relevant tips in a concise, but useful text.

    • #2 by Michelle Childs on June 24, 2012 - 9:56 am

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Graham – I appreciate your feedback. Have a good day!
      Michelle Childs recently posted..Workplace Literacy and Numeracy matters!My Profile

    • #3 by Sam ODonnell on September 11, 2012 - 5:03 am

      First, I want to thank you for posting this information. Second, I’m wondering I f may use this information with my students. I teach certificate level courses through our local study center. These tips would be very valuable to my adult learners.

      Pastor Sam ODonnell

      • #4 by Michelle Childs on September 12, 2012 - 9:14 pm

        Hi Sam
        You’re very welcome, and I am pleased that you find this post useful. I would be very happy for you to use these tips for your learners. Have a good day,


  2. #5 by Theresa Torres on June 25, 2012 - 5:20 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for sharing the inspiring story of the Samoan lady. In my line of work I am intimidated by younger and quicker teammates. I’m a slow learner and while others get it at the first go, for me it takes many repetitions before I fully understand a lesson, a task or instructions.
    Yes, these are very helpful tips. It’s not only young students who need guidance in studying but adults too especially with constant updates in technology.
    Theresa Torres recently posted..Life After College: Recent Graduates Guide to the Real WorldMy Profile

    • #6 by Michelle Childs on June 25, 2012 - 5:38 pm

      Hi Theresa
      Thanks for your feedback and your honesty. All learners are different, and it’s not productive to compare yourself against others. You will have things that you are good at too, and I admire your persistence and determination. We all have our weaknesses and strengths. Just keep on asking questions and making sure you understand – you will get there in the end, and will be worth it!
      Have a good day!
      Michelle Childs recently posted..Take Control of Your Life!My Profile

  3. #7 by kanaprajapat on August 31, 2012 - 9:58 pm

    study tips is nice.Study tips is good subject.this is actually very interesting so you …
    read more:
    kanaprajapat recently posted..Study Tips for your childrenMy Profile

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